(Tip: Listen to it while folding laundry, doing dishes, etc.)
Now, I don’t want to re-hash the entire thing — you should just watch it! — but there were several points that really resonated with me.
I can’t tell you how often I’ve wished for a few more hours in the day, or how badly I’ve longed for a time turner like Hermione had. Usually this feeling sets in right around dinner, when I realize the day is ending and I still haven’t accomplished half the things I wanted/intended to. Sometimes I just scramble to finish as much as I can before bed, but other times I force myself to stay up late, to make up for the time I misused earlier.
In losing sleep, I tell myself that I’m “creating” more time, that lots of people only need 4-6 hours a night, that waking up the next morning might be painful, but it will be worth it. I also tell myself that this is my own fault, that I deserve the pain of exhaustion.
All those things may be true, but so is this: When I get less than 7 hours of sleep, I become clumsy. I cry at silly things, like songs or commercials. And I have a much harder time focusing or buckling down to work.
That of course means I’m less likely to be productive the next day, which means I’ll have to stay up late to make up for it again. Which means I’m even less likely to be productive the next day, which means I’ll have to stay up late a third night… And so on and so forth, until I’m an incoherent sleep-deprived mess who crashes on the sofa in the middle of the afternoon, dead to the world, drooling like a loon.
Unsurprisingly, McGonigal asserts that sleep is one of the key physiological factors* in building up and harnessing our willpower. So from now on I’m going to try to remember that a good night’s rest will help more in the long run than an extra hour or two of working.
*Physical exercise, diet, and meditation are the other main factors.
Speaking of downward spirals and the importance of avoiding them…
2. Forgive yourself
“The harder you are on yourself when you have a willpower failure, the more likely you are to have the same failure again, and the bigger it’s going to be when you do.”
(Note: This holds applies to things much more serious than writing productivity — such as alcoholism, drug addiction, gambling, etc.)
So, this is something that I sort of intuited over the years, but I’m glad to see that it holds up to science — i.e., it’s not just something I made up to let myself off the hook.
Basically, don’t beat yourself up, because that only makes things worse. It sets up a negative mental and emotional space around your goal, which makes you less likely to even want to approach, much less break through and achieve.
Now, I don’t think you want to be oblivious or unconcerned about your bad behaviors; you just don’t want to harp on them either.
Stay tuned for part 2, which covers future self, failures, and holding your breath.